Valediction 2018

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This year I report the retirement of a vintage crew of hacks. Together they have pushed our publication to unimagined heights and as they go off to their various homes of rest, we salute them all.

If there is a point to education then Chris Hyland is it. He has the rare ability to understand what really matters. It was no surprise that Chris should have involved himself with this newspaper, nor that he should have become its spokesman; Chris has a mission to inform. Like many highly capable people, Chris’s work has been behind the scenes, where his stamp of reliability and attention to detail have built this newspaper into a truly professional unit: the job Momentum did in creating the cult of Jeremy Corbyn is nothing compared to the job Chris did to professionalise Berkeley Squares. Whatever Chris does, he does astonishingly well and however he chooses to spend his retirement from Berkeley Squares, he is certain to do it well. I suspect that Chris would be just as happy managing the accounts of a local youth club, but after university I see him putting in a few years with McKinseys, contributing occasional articles to The Economist (their byline policy would suit him ideally) and then graduating to the role of political adviser to a thoughtful Labour politician. If Chris doesn’t end up as a mandarin, the fruit shops will have to close down.

Our Editor, Jack Collard became front-man and poster boy for Berkeley Squares as much for his charm as for his editorial talents, but he rapidly grew into the role and proved himself a natural leader, earning huge respect for his integrity and honesty. Jack is exactly the sort of person you need to front an organisation that doesn’t actually pay its contributors – everybody loves him. During his year in charge, Jack has overseen rapid growth in circulation and output, and it is largely due to him that this period of change has been entirely without argument. When a stand off with our publishers threatened arrangements, Jack’s calming lead steadied the ship and logic prevailed. Meanwhile, the iconoclastic James Palmer’s maverick and occasionally explosive enthusiasms have maintained the threatening edge to our articles this year. Opinionated and scathing when the need demands, James’ film reviews have provided a steady barrage of first rate commentary and a distinctive voice that has probably been more responsible for the style of our publication than anything else. James is at his best fighting the status quo and is surely already being primed by secret agents to become a Communist spy.

My enthusiasm for the game of football has been magnified immeasurably through Tom Hague’s fluid formation of words, gracefully imitating the players he follows. Being the most likely of our ragged band to actually get paid for journalism, Tom assembles his articles in such a way that even those who have no idea why any of it matters enjoy every game that he reports as much as if Bristol City really did get to play in the Premiership. As a dedicated scientist, it took Albert Li a few articles to get to grips with how to explain the highly complex technical issues in simple terms. As his articles began to condense into manageable pieces, he found a voice that we have all grown immensely fond of. Simultaneously if mankind ever land on Mars, I am sure that Albert will be there, reporting it in every detail. James Smithson’s writing has warmed our consciences with its sincerity: a writer determined to maintain the true spirit of Lord Reith, he reminds us all that the world matters beyond our own brittle ivory tower where the tapping of keyboards is often the only, self-obsessed sound.

Harry King, remarkably lean for a man so obsessed with food, has been our guide to epicurean delights this year. His sensibilities have been refined as the year progressed and we can soon expect to see him dining in the gentlemen’s’ clubs of west London. Harry, we think, is sure to make a career importing fine wines, reviving the ancient Bristol traditions in port and sherry. He will spend all of his money on obscure paintings, ancient works of art, vintage clocks, and Russian caviar. Matt Munday’s political proclivities have been steady and reliable, but he will be most remembered for his duels with Ed Piska, whose more strident conservatism led to many ferocious disputes. Together they remind us that political differences are often the most bitter within parties than between them. Both are true politicians, willing to argue on points of order and principles for as long as it takes, and are both determined to fight to the death for their cause until a compromise is found. Both will end up in the House of Lords, arguing about the finer details of corn laws, both reviled and revered by various tabloids.

Last, but by no means least, Toby Speirs has been our rock solid chief sub-editor this year. Nothing gets past him. Not a full stop out of place, not a colon incorrectly used. As he heads off for a career in medicine, I can think of no-one more reliable to watch over a tricky colon, no-one better to ensure that the operating knives have all been accounted for, to ensure that a suffering patient has been expertly cared for, and that nothing has been spared to ensure the perfect outcome. Toby has worked harder this year than any junior doctor I have ever heard of, so his retirement will bring him a well earned rest. We will miss the precision of his scalpel.

Gentleman, you have given us a vintage year: as we lay down your work in the annals of the BS vault we look upon you with awe and admiration. Gentleman, one and all, farewell.